Recent research shows that caregiver discrimination lawsuits—including discrimination based on pregnancy, parenthood, and caring for sick family members—have risen nearly 270% in the last ten years. Surprising? Not really. Upsetting? Completely.

Yet on the bright side, people are regularly winning these lawsuits, illustrating the growing recognition of family caregivers in the workforce and how employer policies can support—or harm—their economic security.

Washington State has long been a leader in shaping laws and policies to ease these all-too-common struggles. Almost 30 years ago, the state passed the groundbreaking Family Care Act, which allows workers who receive paid leave to use it care for their families.

We are now defending that law as the Court decides whether workers with a short-term disability leave plan can use that paid leave to care for family members. The employer denied them access, requiring them instead to choose between taking unpaid leave and using their already-scheduled vacation leave, a separate category of bargained-for paid time off designed for the workers’ own rest and respite.

Although the question in this case is one of technical interpretation, it could affect many working families in Washington. Legal Voice and our allies have added our voices to the conversation, urging the Court to uphold the true intent of the Family Care Act: to ensure workers—especially women, who continue to be the primary caregivers in most families—can continue to earn an income despite family illness, the addition of a child, or a family crisis. Additionally, our brief highlights that a ruling in this case also affects workers’ ability to take “safe leave” under the domestic violence employment leave law.

You can learn more about your employment rights—such as family leave and leave from work for survivors of violence—through our free tools and resources.

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